“Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.” — Ezekiel 47:5
Some years ago, my wife and I lived in a house that had a 16-by-32-foot swimming pool in the backyard, and from time to time, we would invite friends over for a swim. Some of our guests would walk up to the pool, stick a toe in the water, and decide to skip swimming and just watch. Others would sit on the side of the pool and dangle their feet in the water. But some would go straight to the edge and jump into the deep end. One big splash, and they would come up from the bottom and call out to those watching, “This is great! Come on in!”
Our focus verse mentions “waters to swim in.” When the man in Ezekiel’s account began to measure, he went first into ankle-deep water, then up to the knees, and eventually into water to swim in — water so deep that it overflowed him. And the river was not just something for Ezekiel to look at or describe to others; it was for him to enter into as well.
Such a river had never existed in Jerusalem’s history. While there were streams and springs in Israel, there never had been a mighty water source like this. In the semi-arid geography of the region, water like the river Ezekiel entered into would bring life, growth, refreshment, hope, and security. It would truly be miraculous!
A spiritual parallel can be drawn between the river in Ezekiel’s account and the life-giving redemption and spiritual blessings that flow from God’s throne to all mankind. The river of His grace turns death into life. His power transforms everything it touches. The question is, will we plunge in?
Often Ezekiel’s river is used in sermons to encourage individuals to go deeper in the Gospel. Perhaps some have been attending church for years, but have never fully immersed themselves in what God offers. Others have stood around the edges, so to speak, merely observing and maybe “sticking a toe in the water” from time to time. Some may be wading in ankle-deep water, but they have become satisfied with that and have failed to go any deeper.
We can learn from Ezekiel’s river that there are immeasurable depths of God’s grace and provision to explore. And the deeper we go in the Gospel, the more joy we experience. If we let the Spirit of God take over every part of our lives, we will enjoy blessings we are not able to explain.
If you have never experienced the abundant life that God offers, do not be content with just being an observer. Plunge in today! And if you have been content to linger in “shallow water,” get out deeper where there is water to swim in. God can do amazing things in your life, but the blessing comes when you submerge yourself!
Chapter 47 begins a description of the transformed land of Israel, which continues through chapter 48. Verses 1-12 of this chapter focus on the great river that flows from the Temple, and verses 13-23 on the portion of the land allotted to the tribes and strangers. (Additional land allotments are described in chapter 48.) The details found in these chapters portray a land and city very different from the Israel or Jerusalem that previously existed in all of recorded history.
The river described in verses 1-12 was remarkable in many ways. It was first visible where it surfaced from under the threshold of the entrance to the Holy Place on the south side of the Temple. It began as a small stream or trickle of water that easily could be stepped across. Although there is no mention of tributaries to this river, at just over a mile from its source, it could only be crossed by swimming.
At about 1.3 miles eastward from the Temple, where Ezekiel could no longer cross without swimming, his guide asked, “Hast thou seen?” No answer is recorded, but further observations are made regarding the restorative properties of the water. Healing or living water is a recurrent theme in the Bible, often symbolizing spiritual life and the blessings that flow from God.
Some think that the plural “rivers” in verse 9 indicates that the Temple stream flowed into the Jordan River before heading southward into the Dead Sea. En-gedi, mentioned in verse 10, is a noted oasis west of the Dead Sea near Qumran and Masada. En-eglaim is thought to be near the point where the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea. The “great sea” is a reference to the Mediterranean.
Both En-gedi and En-eglaim were fishing points. Freshwater fish would typically die upon entering the salt water of the Dead Sea from the fresh water of the Jordan River, but Ezekiel’s vision looked ahead to a time when that would no longer happen. Verse 11 states that some marshes would not be “healed” (transformed into fresh water). This was not because transformation was impossible, but so that a salt supply would remain for the area inhabitants.
Verses 13-21 give the general land boundaries of a restored and united Israel. The description closely follows the boundaries given by Moses in Numbers 34. The language in verse 14 indicates that individual tribes would receive roughly equal portions, as opposed to Moses’ divisions that were allotted by tribal populations (see Numbers 26:54). The phrase “concerning the which I lifted up mine hand” (verse 14) emphasized that this land would fulfill God’s sworn promises of a real land that He made to Abraham (Genesis 13:15 and 15:18), Isaac (Genesis 26:3), and Jacob (Genesis 28:13).
Verses 22-23 welcome “strangers” (Gentiles) to restored Israel. By God’s command, these were to be treated as native-born among the Children of Israel. They would even have inheritance rights.
IV. The consolation of Israel
B. Prophecies of the millennial kingdom
2. The restoration of the land
a. The river flowing from the Temple (47:1-12)
b. The boundaries of the land (47:13-23)
(1) The portion for the tribes (47:13-21)
(2) The portion for the stranger (47:22-23)
Let’s purpose to be among those who “plunge in” to the abundance God offers with our whole hearts!